One of the laments of small business owners and entrepreneurs trying to build their online presence is: “We have a blog (or website) but it hardly get any visitors. How do we get traffic?”
The typical responses are to “create good content.” Yes, you certainly need good content. But content – no matter how excellent – is not enough. You need to be more proactive to get that content in front of eyeballs.
I’m often asked: how did you build traffic to your blogs and websites? We get a lot of traffic today, but just like everyone else I started with a blog that had just one visitor (me) on that very first day. We all start from the same spot initially. And as I look back over 8 years, I see that no single strategy or tactic was a silver traffic bullet. However, there were certain things that moved the traffic needle noticeably over time, and I’d like to share 10 of those:
(1) Link out to other blogs – When you have a blog that never links to other bloggers, it’s like going to a networking event and refusing to talk with anyone. Don’t be surprised if no one talks to you, either. In other words, don’t be surprised if no one comes to your blog or links to your blog. You have to demonstrate the same type of activity you’re trying to attract. And you must attract links to your blog if you expect to get decent search engine position. After all, links are still an important element to getting found in the search engines. Plus, when other bloggers see that you occasionally link out to discuss articles that others have written, they are more likely to do the same to you. If you never link out to third party sites, they figure “why bother – this person is not interested in what anyone else has to say.”
(2) Use the names of other bloggers in your blog posts – These days many bloggers set up Google Alerts. They receive an email Alert whenever their name shows up on blogs and on the Web. What better way to bring to their attention your blog and an article you wrote mentioning them or an article they wrote? Here’s a bonus tip: mention up-and-comers in the blogging world. They often have the most interesting content on their blogs and they will appreciate the mention. If you only mention the most famous people like Pete Cashmore or Seth Godin, they get so many references daily (hundreds!) that they will probably miss your reference or won’t have time to visit your blog to check it out anyway.
(3) Comment on other people’s blogs – I regularly see articles debating whether blog commenting is “dead.” But often these are written by search engine experts using blog commenting as a means to gain links – and they give the wrong advice for small business owners. For instance, they may advise “leave a keyword” in the name field with your comment. Well, that’s not a relationship builder! You wouldn’t go up to someone at a networking event and say “hi, my name is Accounts Receivable Factoring.” Besides, most blog owners will delete such comments as spam – and you’ve just wasted your time. Instead, leave thoughtful comments and your real name. Think of commenting as a means to start a conversation, break the ice and start building relationships with other bloggers in your niche.
(4) Publish early in the day rather than later – Posts published earlier in the day (at a minimum before 3:00 pm Eastern time) tend to get the most traffic and attention, especially for business topics. In fact, if you can publish articles first thing in the morning, that’s even better. Blog posts can have a long shelf life, but you get the biggest bang from really fresh posts. Many people check their feed readers listing blog posts or check social media sites where they discover blog posts, in the morning. If you can only find time to write in the evenings, then schedule it to publish the next morning. With WordPress blogging software, for instance, scheduling a post to publish in the future is easy.
(5) Write guest posts on other blogs – Once you’ve developed a bit of a relationship with some bloggers, you could email them and ask if they’d be open to a guest blog post or posts from you. Guest posts are a fine way to get your name and your blog known in front of different audiences. Set a goal to do at least one guest post per month. Be sure to include at the bottom of the post an “About the Author” blurb with a link back to your blog and/or website. Most blog owners will accept a short informational statement that is not salesy for the blurb, like this example: John Smith is the CEO of XYZ Company that sells blue widgets to orangutan owners. His website is Blue Widgets for Orangutans and he blogs weekly at the Orangutan Blog.
(6) Accept guest posts – This is the opposite of writing guest posts for other sites. When you accept guest posts on your own site, the guest author will usually share their guest post with their network. After all, they are going to be proud of it. They likely will share it on social networks such as Facebook, email lists and possibly by doing a short “pointer post” on their own blog. To attract guest posts, put up a page inviting guest posts, and include a nav button to lead to it, labeled “Submit guest post” or “Write for this site.” Putting up this page is important, because some people actively search in the search engines for phrases like “submit guest post” to identify blogs that accept guest posts. Recognize, however, that it will take a bit of time to deal with guest posting requests, so be prepared.
(7) Write occasional large meaty posts and/or “tips roundup” types of posts – If you want people to share your content with their social networks, create “shareable“ content. The content that others share widely tends to be in-depth such as a tutorial, or have lots of pithy tips, or comments on a particularly timely topic (remember how many Steve Jobs posts there were last year upon his passing?). Short posts are fine, but they tend not to get shared as much. Some of the posts that have the longest shelf life on my blogs (getting traffic 3 or 4 years later) are those that offer timeless in-depth advice.
(8) Make it easy to share your content right from your blog! – I can’t tell you how many times I go to a blog where there’s not a sharing button in sight to easily share posts on Twitter or other key social sites. You make it much more likely that people will share your content if they can do a one-click share. Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn all have official sharing buttons that are relatively easy to install. Another big issue I see is that of broken sharing buttons or outdated sharing buttons. If you still have sharing buttons on your site for Propeller, Magnolia or Mixx, time to do an overhaul! Those sites are long gone. Click your sharing buttons, and test them out.
(9) Set up accounts with Twitter, Facebook and/or Linkedin and share your posts – Social media is a terrific way to share your blog posts with the wider world. Do be active on social media sites if you have a blog. The big three for small businesses currently are Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, although Google+ is an up and comer. Pick a couple, at most 2 or 3, social media sites where your target audience is likely to congregate and learn how to use them to expand your connections. Some experts say you shouldn’t share all your blog posts, but I think you should. And set it up automatically to share (using a tool like SocialOomph or Twitterfeed) if you’re the type of person who gets busy and forgets to share your blog posts. Just be sure to share other content by other parties, too. No one likes a bore, and talking about yourself or your own blog to the exclusion of everything else can make you a bore.
(10) Use social bookmarking sites – Social bookmarking sites like Digg, Tip’d and BizSugar.com (note this is a site I own), encourage you to share your blog posts with the rest of the world. You can submit a link back to your post along with a short snippet of the post. Members of those sites can vote on posts. To make the most of bookmarking sites, it’s best to pick a few that you regularly participate in. The more you participate and vote on others’ submissions that you like, the more likely others will vote on yours if they like what you’ve written.
Finally, as a quick bonus point, don’t forget to develop a house email list of double opt-in subscribers – and share your blog posts via your email list. Email is a tried and true marketing technique that’s still powerful. And even if you think your email subscribers are likely the same as your blog readers, remember that they get busy and may forget to visit your blog. Sending out snippets of your blog posts in the form of a newsletter occasionally will remind them to come back and read the full posts.